Why Role Profiles are Key to Team Happiness

Nov 8, 2019 | 0 comments

As companies grow, confusion can often creep in around who does what. Overlapping responsibilities or things falling through cracks are common problems for fast-growing businesses. These can quickly cause resentment, tension and conflict in your team. So when I’m working with entrepreneur clients on building their businesses, one of the first things we look at are roles and responsibilities. We also look at success measures which define how each person will know if they are succeeding at their role.

It’s this kind of clarity which sets you up for success with management and recruitment. It also sets up guard rails to keep your employees moving in the direction that’s best for your business.

As the boss of your enterprise, your job is to be clear – about your vision for your business, about how your business helps your clients or customers and how you want it to show up in the world. The job of the people you hire is to execute your vision – to figure out how it can work, given the resources available.

So what does this mean in practical terms if you’ve already hired people without a clear description of their roles? And especially when you’ve hired friends or family, as is the case for many entrepreneurs?

You can breathe easy.

Writing a clear role profile, even retrospectively, can be a relief to everyone concerned.  This is especially true if you have an existing friendship or family bond. this simple document can protect your friendship, making sure everyone is clear on where they stand.

Give the person input into their profile so that if there are any niggles about their role, they have an opportunity to air them. It’s also your chance to clarify any of those areas that may have been vague or poorly defined in the past.

Writing a role profile can also force entrepreneurs to make sure that their vision is clear to others. You need to speak your truth. You need to be authentic so that you can find your tribe – both colleagues who are going on this journey with you and clients or customers who are buying into your vision.

Role profiles are also great for team morale and cohesion. When everybody is clear about what is expected of each person, communication and trust quickly improves.

Here are the key elements of a great role profile:

  1. Title: this should describe the role and its duties. It should be consistent with other titles in your organisation and generic enough so that it can be compared to similar jobs outside your business.
  2. Relationships: there are two kinds of relationships to include – reporting lines and working relationships. The first describes who they report to and who they manage – effectively looking above and below. The second describes other working relationships: who they would be working with and in what capacity.
  3. Job overview and purpose: describe the job, its main purpose, what it covers and priorities. Include how the job fits into your business and define success for this position.
  4. Duties: list the main ones in complete sentences starting with an active verb e.g. Inspect every widget that leaves the factory for correctly attached hinges. Describe what they are responsible for and what decisions they will be making. Mention if this role manages a budget. Include responsibilities of the job as well as those expected by all employees in the business.
  5. Skills and competencies: list essential qualities needed by someone doing this role. List skills and competencies separately. What skills, abilities, experience and knowledge do they need? What personal qualities and behaviours are required?

I’m sometimes asked about the difference between skills and competencies. You can describe them as the difference between WHAT and HOW.  What is someone capable of doing versus how they would go about doing it. For example, you can learn a programming language like Java but you need good analytical, logical and interpretative ability to be able to deploy it.

Another question I get asked a lot is whether role profiles only apply to permanent team members. My answer is emphatically no – regardless of how you pay someone and how many hours they work for you, getting clear about what you both expect is one of the keys to happiness.

So where are you with clear roles and responsibilities? Do you have role profiles for everyone in your team? If not, what are the reasons for not getting clear? Please get in touch if you need help working through this process.


Lisa Zevi – Co-Founder of REAL Business Builders